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My Jaguar, the “Sexy Beast”

Illustration: Daniel Morgenstern

Next to my wife and two sons my most beloved possession was my 2.4 liter 1969 Jaguar.

Back in the 1960s my friends said I was insane when I announced my intention of importing a Jaguar to Israel. "True you will have an unusual car, but if anything goes wrong, you won't be able to get parts or find a mechanic qualified to install them."

Undaunted, I ordered my Jaguar. It was to be a beauty with metallic silver paint and red leather upholstery.

The fun began almost at once, as new import duties were tabled and a deadline for the arrival of the car was decided by the Treasury Department. The upshot of it all was that someone else took possession of my silver beauty and I got a model which arrived three days before the deadline. "Anyhow what is wrong with a blue car with grey upholstery," I consoled myself.

I don't remember who said it first, but the car was nicknamed "the sexy beast'. Its sleek lines, luxurious interior appointments, its airplane like control panel, with more dials and controls than a jet fighter, gave me the feeling of being the king of the road.

It was two years before some minor problems arose and the local agent had no spares. I was furious and wrote to the Jaguar company in England. They took me seriously and fired the dealer but did not bother to appoint a new one.

The solution to the parts problem came in the form of my mother-in-law who lived in London. She would get the parts from Jaguar and would give them to one of her friends who traveled to Israel.

In 1968 I allowed the Jaguar to be drafted into the Israeli army. The army needed people with cars who would deliver call-up notices. I presented my car to the Israeli Defense Forces with the one ultimatum, namely that I drive it. My offer was grabbed. The army was enchanted with my offer. And so the Jaguar was part of Israel's army and I became its chauffeur. A year later I came to the Army with another proposition. Return the Jaguar to civilian status and take me instead. They agreed.

When the Yom Kippur War broke out I was in Jerusalem for the holiday and rushed home. I found a call-up notice on the door. My wife urged me to take the Jag with me. I assumed that her logic was simple. If we lose, then we won't need a car, but if we win …. oh well. And so it was that the Jag accompanied my unit wherever we were posted.

At the end of the war we spent endless days while the cease-fire was being negotiated. We were stationed at El-Arish, at the gateway of the Sinai Desert. The boredom was unbearable. One day one of my buddies suggested that we drive down to the Suez Canal. "No one will notice that we are gone and we should be back by nightfall." I filled the tank with gas and off we went wending our way along the coastal road. We eventually veered westwards and found ourselves traveling through the Mitla Pass. We were stopped and told that no private cars were allowed, and that travelers to the Suez Canal must travel with an army bus. And that is how we reached the Suez Canal. The signs of battle were all there. We saw the point where the Israeli army had crossed the canal and surrounded the Egyptian Third army.

It was time to go back and we drove to Balooza, on the Mediterranean, intending to travel straight northwards to El-Arish. However, all did not go well as we were quickly running out of gas. I saw ourselves sleeping outdoors while waiting for assistance. However, on the side of the road I spotted an army camp. It was not Israeli but bore the flag of the United Nations. I drove to the gate and a spiffily dressed United Nations soldier approached us warily. The sight of a Jaguar in this part of the world was unusual, to say the least.

I did not realize that my appearance was hardly military. I had gone unshaven for a week, but my bravado did not desert me. "Soldier, I would like to buy some gasoline from the United Nations," I said. The soldier was dumb struck as he did not know what to do. He called a superior who was more amenable to my request. Needless to say I got the gasoline without paying for it.

Before moving on I opened the trunk of the Jaguar, withdrew a cigar and a bottle of cognac and offered it to the UN soldier.

I told the story many times and it was only believed when I showed a picture of the disheveled group of soldiers standing on a pontoon bridge used by the Israeli army to cross the Suez Canal.

 

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Monday, 20 September 2021

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